A friend of mine had a dream some years ago. She found herself in a shop, piled high with seemingly worthless junk. She felt drawn to an old trunk and when she opened it and peered inside, the bottom was a window into the vastness of the cosmos. As she gazed at the starlit universe, she knew that was her own unfathomable Self, radiant and whole, the God within.
This dream points at a deep truth.
Everything inside of you, all the stuff you think is worthless, is a potential opening into the vastness of you.
Cheryl, a fairly new client, had discovered her Enneagram type. She was excited about her new insights but was still frustrated about her ongoing reactivity. Cheryl has lists of “what if’s” and “if only’s” that keep her on edge. Nearly all of the items on her lists require that something outside of her change. “If only” her partner would be more appreciative. ”What if” this isn’t the right job for her after all?
This is the norm for most of us. If something out there would just be different, then we would be okay. We would feel worthy, have a better relationship, make more money, be more at peace and the list goes on. But like the song goes, we’re looking for love in all the wrong places!
The right place is inside of you!
You’ve got a great map, the Enneagram, and now you have to use it. You have to bring the rest of you, your body, into the exploration to make this map truly transformative. There is the beauty and vastness of the cosmos, and a deep well of peace and love, at the core of who you are. And you need to be willing to go into the “junk” store and open the trunk to find it!
One of the first lessons we learn as children, as a matter of survival, is to contract away from pain and move toward pleasure. Our little nervous systems are not fully formed and can’t handle too much intensity. So we have those red-faced crying fits when we’re hungry or wet. As we grow and our nervous system matures, this lesson continues to lie at the bottom of most of our choices. We don’t like what we’re experiencing so we “cry” or complain or fume to try and change our experience. Sound familiar?
But there’s a secret I want to tell you”¦
The truth is your nervous system can handle more than you think! And you can teach it to handle even more. The secret is that when you move toward the discomfort or pain you’re experiencing, often it relaxes and you have deeper insights into the problems you’re facing. Who knew?? Then, as you practice this, your nervous system learns to relax more and more. You begin to discover that the things that bothered you in the past bother you less.
How do I do that exactly?
Many explorers have gone before us, exploring our inner universe to find the treasures that lies at the heart. Guides and teachers from many paths offer something like this simple formula.
”¢ Remind yourself that you are aware of what is happening (thoughts, feelings, sensations) – you are the Observer;
”¢ Notice the story unfolding in your mind (what if’s, if only’s, etc);
”¢ Detect what you’re feeling (scared, angry, sad, etc);
”¢ Shift your attention to the sensations in your body related to that feeling (heart racing, tight throat, chest contracting, etc);
”¢ Breathe in the deep belly (like blowing up a balloon in your abdomen);
”¢ Come back to the breath and/or your sensations when the story starts playing again;
”¢ If it feels too intense, stay with the breath in the belly;
”¢ Be present with yourself;
”¢ See what happens!
It’s a simple formula and not easy.
Move toward the discomfort you’re experiencing in the body. Go in to find the great beyond, to discover who you are.
Cheryl began to practice this “simple” formula and found how difficult it can be. Everything in her told her to run when she felt pain. She would watch her mind as blame took over and she wanted to lash out. Or she would just feel bad about herself, feeling worthless. Sometimes she would succeed in moving toward the discomfort and sometimes she would not. A simple formula but not easy! And with time, she started experiencing more times when she wasn’t reacting or worrying like she did before. Times of calm and peace”¦times when she felt she really was okay after all!
Welcoming ourselves home to the heart of the cosmos”¦
At the core of compassion is the ability to meet and face our pains, fears, angers, and feelings of shame. And we need some technology to do that. To build a skill we need to practice. It doesn’t happen over night, but with time, we find our skill increasing. We start to feel less reactive, experience greater calm and more love. We discover the truth of who we are as the heart of the cosmos.